By David Ward
So I was walking along with my 6 year old grandson when he asks, “Grandpa Dave, why do you have hair in your nose?” There it was again, a grim reminder that not only am I feeling the advance of age, but its advancement is apparent to others, as well. My innocent grandson just didn't know the taboo against voicing the clearly obvious.
I simply explained that when you get old, hair grows longer in places where you wish it wouldn't, like your nose and ears. Obviously I needed some grooming. And along with that, I could use a few other things as well. Like a new hip, a stronger back, better eyesight, less arthritis, and just less pain overall.
Of course, the day he said that to me, I had earlier finished a 35 mile bike ride, and would do a 55 miler the next morning. One of the many wonderful attributes of bicycling is that, unlike youth, it is not wasted on the young. I no longer run, thanks to my hip (though I had given up any serious running for cycling a long time ago). Even walking long distances can be painful. And while I have long maintained that skiing is my first love, my hip now brings that into question as well.
But I can ride, and it doesn't hurt. Thanks to age, I am not nearly as fast as I used to be, and I am now well used to being easily passed by most riders while I pass very few. But I can still enjoy a fresh, sun-drenched morning as I pedal up a pine-lined canyon or rock and roll along a meandering, moderately hilly road. Who cares how fast others are going as they blow past me.
Like today. My niece is getting married this evening, and so we had family coming in from various out of state locations. I called Andy from Denver and A.C., an avid mountain biker from Pocatello, and told them to bring their gear. Larry called from Phoenix about going for a ride, and I outfitted my son-in-law, Joe, who lives in Logan.
We set out at 10:30 this morning under a bright blue sun and the temperature at a cool 50F, perfect weather for a refreshing ride. Joe, Andy and A.C. were the youngsters of our group, ranging from 25 to 42. Larry and I were the old men, at 57 and 61, respectively. We headed from my home down Emigration Canyon, crossed above the University of Utah campus, and rode through Federal Heights and along 11th Avenue, around City Creek to the State Capitol, and down to Bruges Waffle and Frites where we stopped for a snack before retracing our route to my home. Along the way, we enjoyed many and varying spectacular views of the Salt Lake valley and the surrounding, snow-packed peaks.
We were a casual group, particularly heading down to Bruges, visiting with each other along the way. During the ride, I got Larry's story. At age 49, he was heading out on a 65 miler when, without warning, he went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, a lady saw him, stopped and administered CPR, or he would not have been riding with us today. After that experience, Larry said his priorities changed. He took stock of what was important to him, i.e., his wife, children, and doing those things that bring him joy and satisfaction.
He said he did not know how long he would live, given his heart condition, and he wants to make the most of those years. He has always been very active and fit, and still is, but he has to keep his heart rate down around 130. I am guessing he has many years left, but he is right about life as you age. You want to enjoy it fully.
I love riding my bike. And I figure I will be able to continue riding so long as I can climb on my bike, even if I need help. Cycling is low impact. It is likely to be pain free well beyond the time when most activities have been abandoned because the payback afterwards is not worth it. It keeps you toned and fit to the degree you desire, even as an old guy. It allows you to be outside and active, enjoying this marvelous and magnificent world in which we live.
I am getting older, I admit. My left hip is wearing out and will need to be replaced somewhere in the next few years. Sometime after that, it will be my right hip. I have inherited my mother's arthritis. I have recurring pain in my left knee that, occasionally, becomes quite irritating. My lower back varies from not too bad to not too good. And my blood pressure has been creeping up on me, though not yet to the level of being a serious concern.
Despite all that, I still enjoy a good bike ride, either alone or with good friends and acquaintances, and do so several times a week. Cycling is wonderful like that. Advancing age brings its attendant aches and pains. But as the Dr. Seuss book says, “I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in. “Cycling helps me to remember that, and to keep it that way.